What is Preventive Maintenance?

Preventive maintenance (PM) is a strategic approach focusing on regular maintenance tasks to prevent equipment failures and extend asset life. This proactive method involves scheduled inspections, adjustments, and repairs to ensure optimal performance and machine reliability. Preventive maintenance minimizes unplanned downtime by anticipating and addressing potential issues before they escalate. It also maximizes efficiency, serving as practice for maintenance professionals seeking to uphold consistent operational standards.

You wouldn’t wait until your car’s engine fails to get the oil changed, so you already know the value of preventive maintenance. Simply put, preventive maintenance is maintenance performed regularly to reduce the likelihood of failure.

Also called planned or preventative maintenance, PM is conducted throughout an asset’s normal operating life. This helps avoid unexpected breakdowns and their costly consequences, such as unplanned downtime.

Preventive maintenance is not based on a machine’s condition. Instead, it is based on recommendations from the asset manufacturer or the average life cycle of the asset. Basing maintenance on a calendar means some maintenance tasks are performed when they are not strictly needed. But it also ensures that teams have the budget, inventory, and scheduling to perform the tasks.

Preventive maintenance software, including a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS), can simplify preventive maintenance through features such as auto-scheduled work orders. Streamlining maintenance practices with a CMMS can also reduce emergency reactive work and increase worker safety and efficiency.

Performed consistently, preventive maintenance services can help your organization avoid expensive downtime and disruptions.

Types of Preventive Maintenance and Preventive Maintenance Examples

Nearly every asset needs some type of preventive maintenance. The type of maintenance depends on the asset, the manufacturer’s recommendations, and your use of the asset. There are two main types of preventive maintenance:

  • Calendar- or Time-based preventive maintenance
    These types of preventive maintenance are completed at regular or scheduled intervals, often with the help of preventive maintenance software.

For example, a motor pool may require fleet maintenance every four months. This would be considered calendar-based preventive maintenance.

  • Usage-based preventive maintenance
    Another type of preventive maintenance is called usage-based, where a machine’s statistics are used to determine maintenance needs. Usage statistics can include cycle counts, runtime, miles/kilometers traveled, hours used, and much more.

For example, one kind of PM could involve an industrial maintenance technician collecting machine usage statistics by physically checking the machine or monitoring data from remote sensors. Maintenance may then be scheduled depending on measurements and usage readings.

How Does Preventive Maintenance Work?

Preventive maintenance is a relatively straightforward strategy to establish and set in motion. Managers schedule preventive maintenance work orders based on calendar dates or usage, often at the manufacturer’s recommendation. Teams shut down equipment during the specified date and time. Then, they perform the outlined tasks on that piece of equipment.

Organizations can recognize cost savings by scheduling preventive maintenance during times that work best for the flow of business, such as during planned downtime. Before performing PM, all parts and maintenance resources should be on hand and accounted for to streamline the process.

Managers can set up PM work orders with breakdown and time-based triggers to notify the team of needed maintenance. CMMS software triggers alarms to alert employees of required maintenance. Software triggers a work order when equipment needs preventive maintenance, and scheduled maintenance is triggered whenever the calendar rolls over to a pre-specified date with a time trigger.

For example, forklift manufacturers may suggest performing maintenance every 150 to 200 hours of use, establishing a time-based trigger. Using data from the forklift, the CMMS can send a notification when the forklift has reached 150 hours of use. It then provides a preventive maintenance checklist for the tasks that must be completed. Performing this maintenance can extend the life of assets, increase productivity, improve overall efficiency, and reduce maintenance costs.

Preventive maintenance does not require additional tools (other than the manufacturer’s recommendations), but it does require a team willing to adopt new maintenance processes. To achieve buy-in from the group, it is crucial to outline the benefits of a PM program and identify how a preventive maintenance schedule will make the jobs of technicians, mechanics, and engineers much more manageable.

Preventive Maintenance Benefits

There are many benefits to a preventive maintenance solution. An effective PM program helps organizations reduce costs while improving their processes and operations. Some of the specific, quantifiable preventive maintenance benefits include:

Pros of preventive maintenance

  • Increased safety
  • Longer equipment lifecycles
  • Decreased unplanned downtime
  • Extended asset life and increased equipment uptime
  • Enhanced productivity and efficiency
  • Reduced paperwork and manual data entry
  • Stronger work execution
  • Reduced unexpected breakdowns
  • Improved audit compliance
Benefits of using eMaint CMMS preventive maintenance strategy in an organization

Preventive maintenance is the simplest and most straightforward maintenance strategy to implement. It requires following manufacturer recommendations and establishing a standard maintenance schedule for critical assets and equipment. A PM program helps maintenance teams boost their planning and efficiency while reducing unplanned breakdowns and lost production. Switching to preventive maintenance can be carried out one step at a time, starting with the most critical assets.

While implementing a preventive maintenance program has many benefits, shifting from a reactive maintenance program to a preventive maintenance program can be challenging. Some challenges companies may experience as they shift to a PM program include:

Cons of preventive maintenance

  • More time spent planning and scheduling maintenance
  • Frequency of planned maintenance may need fine-tuning and require additional input from technicians
  • Technicians may experience a learning curve for workflow changes

Even though implementing a change can be challenging, once everyone is familiar with the new procedures, the entire company will benefit from improved Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and machine health.

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Extended asset life and increased equipment uptime

  • Enhanced productivity and efficiency
  • Diminished paperwork and manual data entry
  • Stronger work execution
  • Reduced unexpected breakdowns
  • Improved audit compliance

Preventive maintenance is the simplest and most straightforward maintenance strategy to implement. It requires following manufacturer recommendations and establishing a standard maintenance schedule for critical assets and equipment. A PM program helps maintenance teams boost their planning and efficiency while reducing unplanned breakdowns and lost production. Switching to preventive maintenance can be done one step at a time, starting with the most critical assets.

Key parts to preventive maintenance

Your Guide to Preventive Maintenance

What is preventive maintenance or preventative maintenance?

Preventive maintenance, sometimes called preventative maintenance, is a proactive maintenance strategy. The purpose of preventive maintenance is to ensure optimal equipment health for longer durations.

Why is preventive maintenance important?

Preventive maintenance is important because it allows teams to plan actions before equipment breakdowns. An efficient PM schedule manages downtime so that maintenance won’t impact production. Planning preventive maintenance also includes planning what tools, parts, or other resources will be needed, helping ensure minimal downtime for required maintenance.

Will preventive maintenance eliminate all breakdowns?

While PM will not eliminate all breakdowns, it will substantially reduce unplanned downtime and breakdowns. By planning preventive maintenance before a breakdown occurs, teams can avoid many types of equipment failure.

What is the difference between preventive and reactive maintenance?

Reactive maintenance, sometimes called corrective maintenance or run-to-failure, is not proactive. Reactive maintenance only happens after a breakdown occurs. Preventive maintenance is the strategy of completing maintenance at a specified interval to avoid many breakdowns altogether.

Many organizations have moved away from run-to-failure or reactive maintenance modes. However, most still use this method today. Reactive maintenance involves repairing equipment after it has broken down to restore regular operations.

On the surface, operating reactively may seem less expensive — and it is in some situations. Still, in general, planned maintenance can be much less costly. Studies observe that reactive maintenance typically costs five to eight times more than preventive or predictive maintenance.

Maintenance managers know there are a variety of other costs associated with unplanned outages. Lost production, overtime, idle equipment, expedited shipments, and other “hidden” expenses, which can include:

  • Safety issues
  • Uncontrollable and unpredictable budget costs
  • Shorter life expectancy for equipment
  • Greater chance of inspection failure
  • Increased downtime for equipment and employees
  • Repeat issues and breakdowns

Organizations avoid cost overruns by scheduling preventive maintenance. To streamline the process, all parts and maintenance resources can be planned and accounted for. This helps ensure equipment undergoes maintenance for the briefest possible length of time so that the operation can begin running again quickly.

What is the difference between preventive maintenance and predictive maintenance?

Preventive maintenance is a good step between reactive and predictive maintenance. Predictive maintenance (also called PdM) strategies use condition monitoring tools and data analysis to determine the right time for maintenance.

While preventive maintenance determines schedules based on manufacturer recommendations or the average life cycle, predictive maintenance is very different. Teams track equipment conditions to identify when to schedule and perform maintenance, rather than basing maintenance on the calendar or equipment usage.

Technicians perform both preventive and predictive maintenance tasks during planned machine shutdowns, allowing maintenance to occur outside normal operating times. Predictive maintenance also utilizes various advanced techniques, such as infrared thermal imaging, vibration analysis, and oil analysis, to predict failures.

The most effective maintenance programs leverage reactive, preventive, and predictive methods. This requires analyzing tasks to identify the best method based on disruption due to equipment downtime, cost of parts, labor time, and equipment history.


  • Downtime has already occurred.

  • Less planning, less manpower; more resources, more downtime.

  • Not for production-critical assets/equipment.

  • High impact of downtime on profit margin.

  • Less safe for workers.


  • Before equipment failure has occurred.

  • Planning works best combined with a CMMS solution.

  • Elongate asset lifespan.

  • Increased productivity, production, & profits.

  • Much safer for workers.


  • Maintenance performed at the right time, not before/after.

  • Fewer spare parts used, as they’re only replaced when needed.

  • Doesn’t tie maintenance to calendar or usage, but wear and tear.

  • Prepares maintenance for IIoT / Industry 4.0 technology.

  • Turns maintenance into a business value driver.

Examples of Preventive Maintenance Programs

Often, preventive maintenance is just one strategy practiced by a maintenance team. Some of the best maintenance programs take a proactive approach, where 60% or more of all maintenance activity is preventive. This decreases unexpected equipment failures and disruptions.

A world-class maintenance program reflects an organization’s goals and works toward them through planning, implementation, and evaluation. This strategy helps organizations improve quality and output, increase equipment uptime and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), reduce costs, and more.

Here are a few types of preventive maintenance that assets may need:

Equipment Inspections

Routine machine inspections are one of the most common preventive maintenance examples. Maintenance teams frequently conduct calendar-based inspections of critical machines. These regular inspections help ensure a facility stays up and running by helping maintenance teams identify and address developing equipment problems.

Equipment Cleaning

Mechanical systems don’t perform well when dirt and dust are allowed to accumulate. As contaminants build up, they create friction and cause wear, eventually damaging machine components. Maintenance teams regularly clean these contaminants off to help avoid premature wear.

Lubricating Parts

Lubricants are vital for keeping machine parts moving smoothly. Without lubrication, bearing failure can damage equipment and lead to downtime. Ensuring regular lubrication is one of the best preventive maintenance examples for keeping machines healthy.

Preventive Maintenance Advantages and Disadvantages

Preventive maintenance is a reliable approach for managing equipment on a consistent schedule to lower the frequency of failures. When manufacturers implement a preventive maintenance program, they typically see continuous improvements in machine longevity, which are visible in their KPIs. Over time, this lessens the effects of asset wear and tear, and the team makes better procurement decisions related to adjustments or replacements. In short, it makes the jobs of engineers, operators, and technicians much easier.

Preventive maintenance has many advantages, including helping extend asset lifespans, reducing unplanned downtime, and increasing operational efficiencies.

Five Advantages of Preventive Maintenance

  1. Increases Asset Lifespan

A major advantage of preventive maintenance is a longer asset lifespan. It ensures that assets are kept in optimal running condition and addresses many issues before they cause complete asset failure. When assets are kept in the best possible health, their lifespan increases, reducing overall costs for the organization by avoiding unnecessary asset replacement. Your preventive maintenance program and documentation will also help you more easily identify when assets should be replaced.

  1. Saves Money

Maintenance costs can stress the entire company financially, especially if complex mechanical systems exist in multiple buildings. To reduce asset spending, preventive maintenance lets technicians organize a larger number of tasks and complete them more accurately. Technicians can optimize schedules by performing planned maintenance on machines with similar needs or in proximity to each other, saving working hours.

  1. Reduces Disruptions

Another advantage of preventive maintenance is reducing interruptions on integral workflows. Rather than halting production when fulfilling requests, technicians can schedule maintenance around expected downtimes to optimize equipment availability. To conserve resources, have each technician focus on one project while giving them access to the required assets. Plan accordingly by identifying the type of maintenance and assigning employees with matching skills to quickly finish the work order. Maintaining good asset health ensures a shorter Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) and improves other KPIs such as Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).

  1. Increases Worker Safety

Unexpected asset failure can cause safety issues for workers, such as fires, hazardous materials spills, slippery walking surfaces caused by leaks, and worse. Preventive maintenance reduces the risk of this type of failure and increases worker safety. Preventive maintenance checklists and procedures can also ensure that every worker follows correct protocols, such as lock-out tag-out procedures and other safety-related measures that enhance and support worker safety.

  1. Reduces Equipment Downtime

Lastly, preventive maintenance minimizes overall downtime because your technicians don’t have to shut everything down just to conduct a maintenance session. Compared to reactive measures, you aren’t facing downtime while waiting for replacement parts to ship or for a specialist to arrive on-site. Instead, preventive maintenance allows you to schedule activities after operations have ceased for the day. Preventive maintenance singles out areas that need attention so you don’t have to bring backup assets to pick up the slack.

Disadvantages of Preventive Maintenance

While preventive maintenance has many advantages, it won’t prevent 100% of potential failures — and it also has some disadvantages.

  1. Potential for Over-maintenance

One issue with performing maintenance on a planned schedule is that it may not always be needed when it’s scheduled. One example is HVAC filters. Changing a filter on a schedule may result in it being changed more often than required, which can increase costs due to both the filter replacement and the employee’s time.

  1. Can Be Costly to Implement

As with any sweeping organizational change, it can be expensive to implement a preventive maintenance program. It requires significant changes across work order development, technician scheduling, inventory handling, and more, all of which cost money and employee time as everyone works to implement or perform these new procedures. This is especially true if your organization doesn’t have a dedicated CMMS to handle preventive maintenance scheduling and must rely on manual processes.

  1. Requires Extensive Employee Buy-in

When beginning a preventive maintenance program, technicians must get used to a new workflow and procedures. Sometimes, this type of program can feel like extra work to employees who are used to only addressing failures or critical repairs. Successful implementation requires getting employees on board with the new processes and ensuring they understand how their work life will drastically improve over time.

  1. Requires Scheduled Downtime

Finding scheduled downtime to address preventive maintenance issues can be difficult for facilities that operate 24/7 (or as close to it as possible). Forced downtime for preventive maintenance tasks can impact production and labor costs throughout the facility when operations must pause for maintenance.

  1. Can Be Labor-intensive

When implementing a preventive maintenance program, maintenance staff must not only learn the new program and perform the needed preventive maintenance to stay in compliance, they must also continue addressing the immediate needs of corrective maintenance. It takes time for a preventive maintenance program to reap the rewards of fewer equipment breakdowns and better asset health, so it can be labor-intensive at the beginning of the program.

Preventive maintenance won’t eliminate all risks of unexpected breakdowns, and implementing the program can take a lot of effort. However, the rewards of a successful maintenance program have impacts across the entire organization.

What Does Preventive Maintenance Achieve in Practice?

Preventive maintenance solutions promote workers’ health and safety while improving productivity and saving money. Some types of preventive maintenance are performed at regular intervals, whereas others are usage-based, taking corrective actions only when machines fall below accepted parameters.

Unlike reactive maintenance, PM prevents equipment failure before it holds up the rest of the production pipeline. In conjunction with a CMMS, a preventive maintenance program can automate necessary maintenance like scheduled inspections, cleaning, and part lubrication.

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What is a PM Schedule?

A preventive maintenance (PM) schedule is a plan to do maintenance after a specific duration, often based on time or usage.

As a preventive maintenance example, a vehicle’s user manual includes a recommended schedule for common maintenance tasks, such as oil changes every three months or 3,000 miles. The manual has both a time-based PM (three months) and a usage-based (3,000 miles) PM schedule. For maintenance teams, a similar schedule would be created at an equipment level for production-critical assets.

With preventive maintenance, the focus of maintenance shifts from reacting to problems to continuous improvement through performance analysis and other methods. Preventive maintenance and preventive maintenance software enable this by providing planning, scheduling, coordination, and reliability.

Designing and launching a preventive maintenance program requires time and effort. You’ll have to develop procedures, schedule training, and communicate with your team. While this may sound daunting, it’s well worth the cost. According to Life Cycle Engineering, every hour of effective planning saves three hours in labor time, or an equivalent savings in materials and production downtime.

Why Do You Need a Preventive Maintenance Schedule?

A preventive maintenance schedule gives you a framework to organize all the preventive maintenance needs throughout your organization. You need a schedule to ensure essential items aren’t left out or forgotten, as well as to make sure maintenance procedures with multiple steps are performed accurately and completely.

There are two types of preventive maintenance schedules. A fixed PM schedule is one that is fixed in time. For example, on the first Wednesday of the month, a pump is inspected for leaks. This will happen every month on the first Wednesday, regardless of any other tasks to be completed.

The second type of preventive maintenance schedule is called a floating PM schedule. These tasks are defined by previously completed tasks and are triggered by completing the previous work order. If the pump in the above example was on a floating schedule instead of a fixed schedule, it may be inspected four weeks after the last time it was inspected instead of at a certain time each month.

Tips to Start a Preventive Maintenance Schedule

  1. Establish an equipment list and determine the best PM candidates: To get started, note all the equipment throughout your organization to establish an inventory. Using this list, decide which pieces of equipment you will include in your future preventive maintenance plan.
  2. Refer to manufacturer recommendations: Look through manufacturer recommendations to establish an effective preventive maintenance schedule. This will help you figure out the necessary tasks and desired frequency of maintenance.
  3. Start with your heavy hitters: To effectively leverage a preventive maintenance schedule, it is important to begin with your most critical pieces of equipment one step at a time. If you’re unsure how to prioritize your assets, performing an asset criticality analysis can help you narrow down your choices. Once you get started with those critical assets, create long-term plans such as annual schedules.
  4. Fill in short-term plans: Once you have established long-term plans, you can begin creating weekly plans for your crew. Teams should assign and schedule tasks, and all parts and maintenance resources should be purchased ahead of time to ensure technicians can perform needed maintenance quickly.

With preventive maintenance scheduling software like CMMS, organizations have experienced benefits such as:

  • Extended asset life and increased equipment uptime
  • Decreased manual data entry
  • Less paperwork with mobile and barcoding capability
  • Consistent maintenance tasks and procedures
  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Improved audit compliance with extensive documentation

With preventive maintenance scheduling software like CMMS, organizations have experienced benefits such as:

  • Extended asset life and increased equipment uptime
  • Decreased manual data entry
  • Less paperwork with mobile and barcoding capability
  • Consistent maintenance tasks and procedures
  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Improved audit compliance with extensive documentation

How to Create a Preventive Maintenance Plan

eMaint has developed six steps to create an effective, world-class preventive maintenance program.

  1. Identify the end goal
  2. Complete an asset criticality assessment
  3. Establish job and labor resources
  4. Start with the big picture: long-term scheduling
  5. Drill down: short-term scheduling
  6. Offer training to employees and clearly communicate goals

Be sure to start with the end in mind. What does your company want to accomplish? Define your procedures clearly to align with organizational goals.

For example, many manufacturing organizations focus on improving work efficiency. This goal helps guide your processes to reap benefits. With the right preventive maintenance plan, you could reduce equipment downtime, improve work completion rates, and maximize the production time available per machine.

How to Implement a Preventive Maintenance Program

One of the best ways to implement a successful preventive maintenance service is to start small with a pilot program. Choose a few pieces of equipment critical to operations and plan out your upcoming preventive maintenance schedule.

With data from the preventive maintenance software used in your pilot program, you’ll be able to better sell the concept to leadership with data. You’ll have your own real-world examples of preventive maintenance success. And, hopefully, that proof will push them to expand the PM program within your organization.

Achieve Your Short-term and Long-term Maintenance Goals

Over time, a preventive maintenance program and CMMS software help organizations reach both short-term and long-term maintenance goals and achieve quantifiable results. These include:

  • Reducing manual data entry
  • Minimizing paperwork with mobile maintenance capability
  • Increasing productivity and efficiency
  • Improving audit compliance with extensive documentation

Learn more about the benefits of predictive maintenance.

Preventive Maintenance Software

Preventive maintenance software, such as eMaint’s CMMS, is key to moving away from reactive maintenance and daily disruptions. With the right program and software, maintenance teams can reduce costs and increase uptime.

Some preventive maintenance examples of real-world client successes include:

  • Reducing downtime 85% in six months
  • Maintaining a 99.8% uptime rate
  • Achieving a 100% compliance on SLAs

Preventive maintenance software is important because it allows maintenance teams to set calendar- and meter-based PM tasks and alerts for every asset. Within the preventive maintenance task record, users add a detailed description that can include important information like a preventive maintenance checklist, task procedures, and guidelines.

Preventive maintenance software also reduces data entry by eliminating the need to create new tasks for every PM schedule. The preventive maintenance software simply associates a PM task with multiple PM schedules.

It also ensures technicians maintain consistency in their processes. Preventive maintenance software enables teams to create a sequence of procedures for every preventive maintenance task. That way, technicians have a step-by-step guide to completing their work. Companies can make certain fields mandatory or require questions to be answered in a specific order, ensuring every step of the needed documentation is completed and helping reduce human errors.

Manufacturers in highly regulated industries also may be subject to audits that require documented proof of maintenance and records of equipment performance. Preventive maintenance software tracks each of these parameters and more. Users can run reports to quickly show highly detailed data, such as when maintenance was performed, what was done, who did it, and more. Tracking this information on paper is cumbersome and prone to employee errors such as misfiling or misplacing. However, preventive maintenance software stores this data on the cloud, backing it up regularly and ensuring your data is always available, even if you’re working off-site.

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